Conjugation of Spanish Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Changes in endings provide information about verb's action

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The most common set of verbs in Spanish and perhaps the most important set of verbs that need to be learned first is the present indicative tense. Although there are conjugations that are easier to learn, the present indicative tense is used the most.

Native English speakers conjugate regular verbs all the time without thinking about it: For the past tense add a "d" or "ed" to the end of a verb, and for the present tense, add an "s" or "es" to indicate that one person or thing is performing an action.

Basic Spanish Conjugation Concepts

The conjugation of Spanish verbs is a little trickier than in English. A speaker needs to consider several different tenses, moods, gender, and agreement in person according to what needs to be conveyed in the sentence. Spanish verb endings can indicate when the action occurs, and also give the listener a better idea of who or what is performing the action.

The present tense means that the action is occurring now. The indicative mood means that the sentence is a statement of fact. To conjugate a verb in the present indicative, remove the infinitive ending of the regular verb, in this case -ar-er or -ir, and replace it with an ending that gives an indication as to "the person" that is performing the action of the verb.

For example, hablar is the infinitive of a common regular verb ending in -ar. To form the present indicative, remove the -ar, which leaves the stem of the verb habl-. If the person "speaking" in the sentence is in the singular first person, that would mean the sentence would be conjugated to be "I speak." In Spanish, when conjugating or changing the stem into a first-person verb, take the stem and add -o, forming the word hablo. "I speak" is Yo hablo.

To say "you speak," which is the singular, informal, second person, add -as to the stem, forming the word hablas. "You speak" is Tu hablas. Other forms exist for subjects such as "he, she, or it," "we," and "they."

The endings are slightly different for verbs that end in -er and -ir, but the principle is the same. Remove the infinitive ending, then add the appropriate ending to the remaining stem.

Conjugation of Regular -Ar Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Person -Ar Ending Example: Hablar Translation: To Speak
yo -o hablo I speak
-as hablas you (informal) speak
él, ella, usted -a habla he/she speak, you (formal) speak
nosotros, nosotras -amos hablamos we speak
vosotros, vosotras -áis habláis you speak (informal)
ellos, ellas, ustedes -an hablan they speak, you (formal) speak

Conjugation of Regular -Er Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Person -Er Ending Example: Aprender Translation: To Learn
yo -o aprendo I learn
-es aprendes you (informal) learn
él, ella, usted -e aprende he/she learns, you (formal) learn
nosotros, nosotras -emos aprendemos we learn
vosotros, vosotras -éis aprendéis you learn (informal)
ellos, ellas, ustedes -en aprenden they learn, you (formal) learn

Conjugation of Regular -Ir Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense

Person -Ir Ending Example: Vivir Translation: To Live
yo -o vivo I live
-es vives you (informal) live
él, ella, usted -e vive he/she lives, you (formal) live
nosotros, nosotras -imos vivimos we live
vosotros, vosotras -ís vivís you live (informal)
ellos, ellas, ustedes -en viven they live, you (formal) live

Irregular Verb Conjugation

Although most verbs conjugate regularly, the most common verbs in Spanish usually do not. In some cases, not only the endings change, but also the main part of the verb, known as the stem. This is similar to English, where the most common verbs such as "to be" and "to go" are also highly irregular verbs.

Present Indicative Conjugations of Common Irregular Verbs

Infinitive Translation Conjugations
dar to give yo doy, tú das, usted/él/ella da, nosotros/nosotras damos, vosotros/vosotras dais, ustedes/ellos/ellas dan
estar to be yo estoy, tú estás, usted/él/ella está, nosotros/nosotras estamos, vosotros/vosotras estáis, ustedes/ellos/ellas están
hacer to make yo hago, tú haces, usted/él/ella hace, nosotros/nosotras hacemos, vosotros/vosotras hacéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas hacen
ir to go yo voy, tú vas, usted/él/ella va, nosotros/nosotras vamos, vosotros/vosotras vais, ustedes/ellos/ellas van
poder to be able to yo puedo, tú puedes, usted/él/ella puedes, nosotros/nosotras podemos, vosotros/vosotras podéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas pueden
ser to be yo soy, tú eres, usted/él/ella es, nosotros/nosotras somos, vosotros/vosotras sois, ustedes/ellos/ellas son
tener to have yo tengo, tú tienes, usted/él/ella tiene, nosotros/nosotras tenemos, vosotros/vosotras tenéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas tienen

Key Takeaways

  • In both English and Spanish, conjugating involves the changing of verb forms to give information about who or what is performing the verb's action and when that action occurs.
  • Spanish conjugation is far more extensive than English, thus providing more information about the verb's action.
  • Conjugating regular Spanish verbs in the indicative present tense involves removing the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, or -ir) and changing it to something else.